The scoreboard was a revolving door for Houston Roller Derby of Houston, TX, USA (seed #2, WFTDA #43) and the Boulder County Bombers of Longmont, CO, USA (seed #8, WFTDA #58). Positioning themselves for a battle in the fifth place game, the two teams shared a nearly equal number of power jams, lead changes, and penalty minutes. In the end, though, Boulder County walked through the door and skated off with the win over Houston in an hotly contested, hard-fought game; Boulder County won 184-181, the first time in WFTDA playoff history that a #8 seed o’erleaped a #2 seed.
The first jam saw Boulder County’s jammer Feist E. One grab four points and lead jammer; then, in the second jam, Houston jammer Mad Cap’nCap took lead and four points. That exact exchange marked the trend for the game: one team pulling points only to be answered by a nearly even opportunity for the opposing team in the next jam.
Houston shut down the seesaw of points in a 15-point jam by Nikkity Split, supported by blockers Rainbow Fright, Bustin’ Beaver, and Kelly Killpowski. Split’s jam was followed two jams later by a 23-point jam for Houston from Slayer Moon. It looked like Houston had enough of sharing the spotlight and had readied themselves for a dominant display of their rank. Boulder County, however, wasn’t going to hand over fifth place. At one point letting the lead sneak away from them by 37 points, Boulder County rallied at the end of the first period to end the half down only seven points to Houston Roller Derby, 92-85 after a 21-point jam that featured X-Ray Vixon swerving through the pack.
“We have a few players for whom this is their last game,” said Boulder County jammer Smashalotapus. “We’ve played tough opponents this season, and we did it on purpose to teach ourselves how to lose graciously and trust each other, all while staying positive. Because of our trust, our positivity, and because we know we have each other’s backs, we were okay in those tight jams.”
That trust showed through as Boulder County continued their rally during the second half. After two jams, a four-point jam followed by a three-point jam, the Bombers tied up the score at 92. Houston took a timeout to rethink their strategy with 27 minutes remaining in the half. The tie would rear its head at least two more times during the game – once at 106 all, and again at 167. Smashalotapus had the blocking support from teammates Muscle Leanie, Dinah Fire, and Fleur de Beast to hold Houston jammer Mad Cap’nCap to only five points as Smashalotapus picked up 20. With 22 minutes, the Bombers took at 15-point lead, 126-111, over Houston.
“I tried not to look at the scoreboard,” Smashalotapus said. “I tried to play each jam as a new opportunity.”
That lead lasted all of two jams before Houston took 28 points with jammers Slayer Moon and Death By Chocolate, though Death By Chocolate’s scoring run was stopped short by a back block penalty and trip to the box. Boulder County took the lead in the following jam, continuing the back-and-forth, as Feist E. picked up 22 points to Nikkity Split’s four. With eight minutes remaining, the game saw its last tie, at 167, with a nine-point jam from Split for Houston and a six-point jam from Smashalotapus. Then it was a mad dash to the finish line, a neck-and-neck sprint for lead jammer status, for four points and a quick call off. The lead changed four more times in the last five minutes.
It wasn’t until Feist E. took lead with a 3-2 pack advantage for the Bombers; the Bombers held jammer Death By Chocolate in an unmoving scrum. Feist E. took one scoring lap through the pack, picked up her five points, checked the scoreboard, and called it off. The Boulder County Bombers took the final lead change and the win, 184-181.
“[Getting to fifth place] wasn’t our end goal,” Smashalotapus said. “We just wanted to play together, game by game. We didn’t care if we rose or sank. We just wanted to do it together.”
Boulder County snatched fifth place to end the tournament three seeds higher than they entered. Houston dropped from seed #2 to sixth place.
Houston Roller Derby (seed #2, WFTDA #43) 184
Boulder County Bombers (seed #8, WFTDA #58) 181